More or less two months ago I read a fellow blogger's column in my hometown Kingman Daily Miner: Edward Tomchin's "An Open Letter to Michael Moore regarding his latest offering, Capitalism, A Love Story." Tomchin hadn't liked Moore much and preemptively disparaged Moore's upcoming film. I then took umbrage, being a big fan. Neither of us had seen the movie at that point. There was some spirited debate online. A variety of readers weighed in, which was all cool.
Nearly two months ago.
BUT, on many levels, as soon as I hit the "send" button and whisked away my snappy little missive to splatter all over that other guy's page, I felt like a doofus putting myself out there defending Moore's latest since I also had not seen it. Sure I got to take the high minded approach of saying don't condemn the thing until you've seen it; but what if it did suck?
So, knowing the chances of catching it at the local theater on Stockton Hill Road were about as great as seeing Nancy Pelosi kissing babies in the Andy Devine Parade, the very next weekend, while out of town, I saw the film. I haven't been the same since.
And have not known what to write since.
So now after more than 8 weeks of deliberation on the issue, I can render a verdict. Forgive me Edward Tomchin. You were right. You said Moore would work against Capitalism in his film, that he would trash Capitalism, he'd wreck it. He does, Moore makes an absolute mess of it. Capitalism is clearly Michael Moore's weakest film since 1997's The Big One. Which is a shame, because it's also his most important, about the most important topic anyone can even discuss about the life of our country, despite being comparatively weak next to his other recent work (Fahrenheit 911 and Sicko). Which is so disappointing because this is a topic so serious that it makes Bowling for Columbine and The Big One seem trite in comparison. Unfortunately, Capitalism makes those films look like Truffaut.
Of course, Tomchin was right, a person does not have to see the film to know Michael Moore purported premise: capitalism is killing America. And No, as I expected, when referring to the concept of "capitalism," Moore is not talking about your average mom and pop business where everybody works their hardest because they love each other and love what they do. And neither he nor I are not talking the diligent inventor who toils away his nights to create a device that improves life on this planet and thus deserves compensation; but he is talking about companies that get richer taking out insurance policies that bet on their employees dying while they leave the surviving widows and orphans penniless to cope. We're talking an economic enterprise that is preparing to reward its "talent" with billions of dollars in bonuses because that talent figured the way to make money off of rendering another American family homeless every 7 and one half seconds, about the time it took to read these words.
All in the name of a bottom line.
We're talking the kind of mentality that America has been taught to think of as success, a kind of capitalism as a vampirism: sucking the vitality of a society away. Rest assured, Moore has the super-sobering goods on the super elites whose money makes this happen, the fabled 1% who now control more than 90% of the rest of us and are ruining everyone's life in the process. Thanks to a leaked Citigroup memo that is a centerpiece in Moore's case against unfettered free markets we now know this cabal see the world as a "Plutonomy," with its greatest threat being that the other 99% of us still vote. As Warren Buffet once said and Moore quoted in the closing credits, "There's a class warfare all right, but it's my class, the rich class that's making the war and we're winning."
That one quote by itself, (originally appearing in a New York Times article by conservative humorist Ben Stein--btw, not made-up by Moore, as his numerous detractors might have you believe) should be enough to prove the scary reality that the robber class rich are destroying the lives of the rest of us and have taken control of our government via Goldman-Sachs and our millionaire class congress. This crisis in our country is so urgent an issue that it should be required viewing for every American before it's too late. Yes, required viewing for every American, especially the patriots who mistake their love of our country with their allegiance to a rigged economic system that insults the name "free market."
It's the same thing those liberal agitators have been saying since history. And they've always been right. The difference is that at this time the gap between rich and poor is widening rapidly because in addition to buying everything else, the rich have also purchased Congress to tip the tables even further in their direction and as the crap rolls downhill it is fouling everyone else's next. So many of the problems that our country and our world are facing are generated by the rich and won't be solved as long as they can profit. Climate change, health debacle, housing crisis, credit crunch, all manufactured by the elite for their own benefit, at our expense. If these problems are not solved soon there may not be a world left for the meek to inherit.
And all this urgency of message rest upon the shoulders of the most widely reaching liberal ideologue pundit provocateur in America, Michael Moore. Funny thing that the conservative Michael Moore haters fail to realize about his films and message is that the serious left dismiss him as a hack, frequently complaining about the same issues the right dislikes. The true beret wearing Sartre quoters carry laundry lists of the flaws in his films, which they are as happy to read riot to you any time you say something nice about the guy.
Understand, I am not just familiar with Michael Moore. And I didn't get my info on him from Rush or O'Reilly either. I am more or less a fan. I've seen everything since Bowling For Columbine, some of the earlier stuff and own a couple DVDs. Seeing Fahrenheit 911 with my son its opening weekend back in '04 is easily one of the most powerful movie experiences I ever had. I later conducted screenings of that film at the local community college. I've also shown Sicko several times to houseguests here at the themepark, including one screening with one of the doctors from the film's Cuban scenes watching it with us while she was in town for a visit. Further, I've read 3 of Moore's books and own a couple of others, been to his website on and off since the Iraq War began, and even written him fan letters.
Including one in the middle of week four and five of not finishing this column.
But also understand: even though I love his ideas, I haven't always loved each art work. Moore is a master of mixing mind boggling facts and outrages, gotcha video, with droll commentary and comic stock footage till he comes to the big sell at the end, but he also tends toward shambling slack narrative, simplification to the point of parody and a kitchen-sink aesthetic, where he throws all sorts of scenes together that seem to relate to a topic, whether they advance the clear-line narrative or not. It works or it doesn't. By those standards, the meticulous construction of Fahrenheit 911 and the scope of Sicko are works of art. Capitalism is not.